The thing about groceries is that there are so many easy ways to overspend — so if you don’t pay attention, your bills can get out of control quickly.
Ways You May Be Wasting Money on Groceries
Here’s a look at some common ways people waste money at the supermarket and how you can save money on groceries.
1. Only Shopping at One Store
Always a bad idea. If you buy everything at the same store, chances are you’re paying more than you should.
You can save more than 30% simply by changing your routine. Check out non-traditional grocery stores like warehouse clubs, dollar stores, Aldi and Walmart for big savings on food and other items you frequently buy at the grocery store (at a higher price).
- Grocery staples: Check out Aldi and Walmart
- Organic: Try Trader Joe’s instead of Whole Foods
- Bulk items: Warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s
2. Shopping Without a List
It’s simple, but it’s important to take a list with you every time you go to the store. If you forget the list, you may end up with a basket of random items and still not have meals for the week.
If you have a list, it’s a lot easier to avoid spending extra money.
3. Paying With a Card You Can’t Pay Off
If your grocery bills are out of control, stick to cash! Figure out what you should be spending on groceries each month and set the cash aside in a “groceries only” envelope. It will help you keep track of your spending and what you have left for the month.
Spending cash is much easier to track than swiping a card.
If you can handle the swipe of a credit card, we have a list of the best credit cards to use at grocery stores.
4. Only Buying Brand Name Products
We all have certain brands we are loyal to, but buying store brands instead of name brands is worth giving a try. This simple switch can save you an average of 25%!
There are some items at stores like Trader Joe’s that are actually brand-name products repackaged for half the price — no coupon needed.
When it comes to the general debate of store brands vs. name brands, the store brand can be just as good — or even better — than the more expensive name brand.
Test a few store brands to figure out which you like. And, if you hate it, many stores offer a money-back guarantee.
5. Not Buying Items on Sale
There are two parts to this.
- Take your list to the store and buy whatever brand is on sale for most items. It’s an easy way to save on the total cost.
- If something you buy all the time is on sale for a great price — and it will last a while (or you can freeze it) — then buy a few! Or buy a lot!
And this applies to both grocery and non-grocery items. If your family goes through a lot of toilet paper, stock up on your run to Costco instead of getting stuck and having to pay more for it at the grocery store around the corner.
6. Not Looking Around
Have you ever thought about how grocery store aisles are organized? Of course they are organized by category, but next time you’re at the store, look at the prices on each shelf.
Walk down the cereal aisle and you’ll probably notice that the shelf at a child’s eye level is full of sugary, fun, colorful, name-brand cereal boxes. The shelves right in the middle, where most adults would look, are also full of more expensive, name-brand products.
Then look at the very bottom and the very top of the shelf — that’s likely where you’ll find generic brands and cheaper prices. So don’t forget to look up and down to save even more.
7. Not Using Coupons
You don’t need a giant binder. There are tons of apps available that allow you to download coupons, offer cash back and a variety of other ways to save. Here’s a list of some to try:
If there’s a grocery store that you love but it’s not cheap, download the store’s app. You can check the app daily or weekly to see what’s on sale.
8. Buying Prepared Foods
Yes, it’s convenient, but it’s also a lot more expensive.
These convenience items could be marked up as much as 40%. So if you want to save, avoid the packaged/pre-cut/prepared sandwiches, salads and produce. Instead, buy the ingredients (which will last you longer) separately and cut your fruits and veggies yourself at home.
9. Not Buying in Bulk
Buying meat in bulk is a great way to help reduce your monthly spending. If your family eats a lot of meat, buy bigger quantities — which will cost you less per pound — and freeze what you don’t eat immediately for later.
You can also ask the person working in the meat department to reduce the size of a certain package you want if it’s too big or too expensive.
Other popular items to buy bulk include toilet paper, coffee and olive oil.
10. Buying Non-Grocery Items at the Grocery Store
Don’t buy things like health and beauty products, light bulbs, and party supplies at the grocery store. Check out discount retailers like Walmart and the dollar stores, and warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club.
While we all feel the pain of sky-high grocery prices, a little know how and planning can save you big.
Do you have additional tips to avoid wasting money at the supermarket? Share them in our Clark.com Community!